Itís almost 200 years since Lord Nelsonís famous naval victory over the French and Spanish in the Battle of Trafalgar.  To kick-start the anniversary celebrations, an actor dressed as Nelson posed for pictures on the River Thames at Greenwich.  But before he was allowed to board an RNLI Lifeboat, safety officials made him wear a lifejacket over his 19th Century Admiralís uniform. 

How would Nelson have fared if heíd been subject to modern health and safety regulations?

You are now on the deck of the recently renamed British Flagship, HMS Appeasement.

Order the signal. Hardy.

Aye, aye, sir.

Hold on, thatís not what I dictated to the signal officer.  Whatís the meaning of this? 

Sorry, sir?

England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability.  What gobbledegook is this?

Admiralty policy, Iím afraid, sir.  Weíre an equal opportunities employer now.  We had the devilís own job getting ďEnglandĒ past the censors, lest it be considered racist.

Gadzooks, Hardy.  Hand me my pipe and tobacco.

Sorry, sir.  All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments.

In that case, break open the rum ration.  Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle.

The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral.  Itís part of the Governmentís policy on binge drinking.

Good heavens. Hardy.  I suppose weíd better get on with it.  Full speed ahead.

I think youíll find that thereís a 4 mph speed limit in this stretch of water.

Dammit, man, we are on the eve of the greatest sea fight in history.  We must advance with all dispatch.  Report from the crowís nest, please.

That wonít be possible, sir.


Health and Safety have closed the crowís nest, sir.  No harness.  And they say that rope ladder doesnít meet regulations.  They wonít let anyone up there until proper scaffolding can be erected.

Then get me the shipís carpenter without delay, Hardy.

Heís busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foícísle Admiral.

Wheelchair access?  Iíve never heard anything so absurd.

Health and safety again, sir.  We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled.

Differently abled?  Iíve only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word.  I didnít rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.

Actually, sir, you did.  The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.

Whatever next?  Give me a full sail.  The salt spray beckons.

A couple of problems there, too, sir.  Health and safety wonít let the crew up the rigging without crash helmets.  And they donít want anyone breathing in too much salt Ė havenít you seen the adverts?

Iíve never heard such infamy.  Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.

The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.

What?  This is mutiny.

Itís not that, sir.  Itís just that theyíre afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone.  There are a couple of legal aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.

Then how are we to sink the French and the Spanish?

Actually, sir, weíre not.

Weíre not?

No, sir.  The French and Spanish are our European partners now.  According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldnít even be in this stretch of water.  We could get hit with a claim for compensation.

But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.

I wouldnít let the shipís diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir.  Youíll be up on a disciplinary.

You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King.

Not any more, sir.  We must be inclusive in this multicultural age.  Now put on your Kevlar vest, itís the rules.

Donít tell me Ė health and safety.  Whatever happened to rum sodomy and the lash?

As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu.  And thereís a ban on corporal punishment.

What about sodomy?

I believe itís to be encouraged sir.

In that case Ė kiss me Hardy.

Return to Historical index